indoor play ideas

There’s no denying that the sunny days of summer are behind us, and what’s ahead is a solid six months of grey and soggy. As much as I love the summer and I’m sad to see it go, I really don’t mind the ugly weather (yet). The rain relieves any guilt about not leaving the house, and adds an extra-cozy component to staying inside. That said, ask me how I feel about this weather again in a month or so and you might get a different answer.

With little kids, lazy rainy days aren’t what they used to be – you can’t just sit on the couch and watch Sally Jesse Raphael all day. There are meals to be made, drinks to be served, bums to be wiped, teeth to be brushed, hair to be combed…the list goes on! I made a list of some fairly easy ways to keep those little hands busy when you can’t get outside to explore. Some of these activities may require a little extra effort on your part the first time around, but subsequent activities are easier (I promise!). Once you’ve created the necessary component(s), it’s there for next time and all you’ll have to do is pull it out of the box.

22 Fun Indoor Play Ideas:


1. Make Play-Dough

There are so many recipes out there for making play-dough, and really they are all very similar. Some you need to cook and some you don’t, but as far as I can tell the one ingredient you definitely want to include is cream of tartar. The cream of tartar makes the play-dough last longer and stay soft and pliable. The bonus to making your own play-dough is that you know exactly what is going into it, and if a certain little person decides to put some in their mouth it’s no big deal. I cooked the play-dough and then my daughter helped mix in the colouring; she loved it. If your kids are old enough they could help with the cooking as well. Click HERE for a great recipe by TinkerLab

2. Play with the Play Dough!

Making the play-dough is a fun activity in itself, especially for older kids, but let’s be honest – the real fun begins when we can play with it! There are plenty of cool play-dough sets out there, but to be honest, the only things we use at home are cookie cutters and some cake decorating tools I got from the dollar store. Oh, and a rolling pin (in our house the play-dough must always start out flat – a rule strictly enforced by my three-year-old). The point is, get creative and use what you have for this one. You would be surprised at what you can do with a kitchen utensil!

indoor play ideas

3. Build a Blanket Fort

Seriously, this doesn’t happen enough in our house, and that’s about to change. This is probably takes the least effort and is the most fun activity. We all have our favourite methods of creating a great blanket fort; a couple of familiar standards include four chairs covered in a couple of large blankets, and a large blanket or two tossed over top of the dining room table to create a “secret cave”.

4. Colour Inside a Cardboard Box

So simple, yet so entertaining. This works best with a really large box but I realize those aren’t always easy to come by; I would suggest checking your local appliance or hardware store. It’s the most fun if the box is big enough for your kid(s) to climb inside of. Instructions for this one are simple: put the box on the floor, put your kids in the box, and pass them a box of crayons, pencil crayons, or felt pens. The best part about a really large box is that you can put your kids in there with the felt pens and you don’t have to worry about trying to scrub their artwork off of the counter/walls/floor when you find it later.

5. Blow up Some Balloons

Balloons = smiling faces. There’s something about balloons; every kids likes them. Blow up a few balloons and bat them around for some fun. If you have some paper plates and popsicle sticks you can glue them together to create an indoor-friendly balloon tennis racket. You can play this game with multiple people or you can have at it solo and play “keep off the floor” (that’s the official name).

6. Fill a Plastic Container with Uncooked Pasta

This activity is always a hit in our house! It’s so simple to put together and it creates hours of fun. I used a 27-litre Rubbermaid container that I already had. You could use any size container, just make sure it is shallow enough that the kids can play with it easily, and that it has a lid for easy storage. I filled my container with two very large bags of macaroni pasta and then I tossed in some plastic frogs, lizards, and some fake gold coins from the dollar store. Grab a couple of beach shovels or some large utensils from the kitchen and you’re all set to go digging for treasure!

indoor play ideas

7. Have a Bubble Bath During the Day

A lot of the time kids get their bath at the end of the day, after dinner, when there is usually a time limit due to the quickly approaching bedtime. But hey, some rules are made to be broken. When I give my daughter a bath in the middle of the day she’ll stay in there for a solid hour sometimes, entertaining herself the whole time. Every kid loves bubbles, so toss in some bubble bath for added fun. I need to take a minute to comment on the bubbles: I’ve had a really hard time finding bubble bath that actually creates lots of good bubbles. If you have found the holy grail of bubbles baths leave a comment below with the details! I usually use this time to do some things that are within earshot of the bathroom: fold laundry, tidy up upstairs, etc. Or, I just hang out and enjoy listening to my daughter talk to her bath toys, and appreciate the opportunity to relax.

8. Finger Painting

Messy! But so much fun! Throw down a protective plastic table cloth and let those little hands work their magic on the paper. Did you know that there is special paper for finger painting? I didn’t until recently. It’s slightly glossy and thicker than your average paper. It’s great because the globs of paint that inevitably land on the paper don’t soak through to create a soggy piece of artwork that you feel guilty throwing away but aren’t really sure what to do with. You can place the finished product on the counter or stick it to the fridge and don’t have to worry about the paint transferring. Genius!

9. Make and Bake Salt Dough

Three simple ingredients make up this versatile dough: salt, flour, and water. You can make whatever you like with this dough. Once you’re happy with your creation, bake it for a few hours in the oven at 200 degrees to harden it. If you are going to want to hang your project on the wall make sure you put a hole in it before you bake it. Once it is baked you can put some string through the hole and hang it up (think of the Christmas decorations!). This is a fun way to immortalize those tiny hands and feet that seem to grow too quickly. You can find a recipe HERE by Parker’s Mommy.

10. Painting Your Baked Salt Dough Project

If you completed the project above, you can now paint it. Pretty straight forward.

11. Make Some TP Roll Binoculars

Save those empty toilet paper rolls! There are so many craft projects that you can use them for. For these binoculars all you need is two empty rolls and two large paper clips, just clip the rolls together at either end and you’ve got a pair of binoculars. If you want to get fancy with them you could punch a couple of holes in the sides and string a neck strap onto them, and they could be decorated with stickers, felts, crayons, etc. Now that your kiddos have a new pair of binos, send them on a safari to spot some lions, tigers, and bears.

12. Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcanoes

The reaction from baking soda and vinegar – both chemically and from the littles – makes this a fantastic project and learning opportunity. The kid-friendly, easy-to-assemble version involves a tray, a chunk of play-dough molded into the shape of a volcano, baking soda and vinegar, and some sparkles for added excitement. Put the play-dough volcano on the tray, put a little bit of baking soda inside of it, and some sparkles, now pour in the vinegar and watch the sparkly explosion and the expression of wonderment in your kids’ face. Just in case you haven’t done this one before; when you pour the vinegar onto the baking soda there will be a foamy mess that pours out of the volcano. Keep things to small proportions and you will be fine to experiment using the tray to contain the mess, if you want to scale things up a bit I would take it to the bath tub or outside.

13. Sort the Pom-Poms

All you’ll need are a couple of bags of pom-poms from the dollar store. I had a plastic serving platter with multiple dishes in it that was perfect for this, but some individual lunch containers will do the trick as well. Start it off for your little one by putting one of each colour pom-pom in each dish. Now let them sort the remaining pom-poms into the matching container. This is a good exercise for learning colours, and could also be used for counting.

14. Paint Some Beach Rocks

My daughter thought it was the coolest thing to be able to bring home a rock and paint it! You can collect rocks from the beach or from the forest, or wherever you happen to find yourself. When you’re outside on a nice day, keep this in mind for a rainy day and take the opportunity to gather up some rocks. My advice is to make sure they are at least 2-3 inches wide. Rocks that are too small will just end up buried under a pile of wet paint.

indoor play ideas

15. Sort the Laundry

I know what you’re thinking – this sounds ridiculous. Usually I like to just sort and fold the laundry quickly and get it out of the way, but my daughter has taken a real liking to sorting the clean laundry with me, and I’ll take all the help I can get. I sit in front of the laundry pile and pass her each item and tell her who’s pile it goes into, then she runs and puts it in the right pile and then comes back for more. Once it’s all sorted I start folding the other piles and I get her to “fold” her own pile at the same time. I figure it’s less trouble than teaching a teenager (here’s to hoping).

16. Cheerio Necklaces

A snack and a craft project all in one. Any kind of string will do for this, and of course you’ll need a box of cheerios or any kind of cereal with a circular shape and a hole through the middle. Tie one cheerio onto the end of the string to stop the others from falling off. Now let your kids string up the rest of them to make their necklace. Once they have enough cheerios on there, you can tie the ends together and they can bite the cereal off of the necklace as they wear it. Delicious!

17. Go Fishing in the Bathtub

I made this game for my daughter’s birthday party and we played it in a little kiddy pool in the back yard. Of course, we all know the backyard is now a swampy marshland this time of year. I should note that this activity requires some assembly before the actual game is played. You’ll need to cut out some fish; I used regular coloured paper and then put them inside of ziplock bags. If you have some kind of coloured plastic-like paper that would resist the water then that would be perfect. Ideally, use whatever you already have to make these (hint: check the recycling bin). You’ll need to put one large or two small paper clips onto each fish. To make a fishing rod you’ll need a couple of fairly strong magnets, some string, and a stick or small dowel. Glue one end of the string to the stick/dowel and the other end to the magnet – now you’ve got yourself a fishing rod. I bought the magnets and dowels from the dollar store. You can also buy plastic fishing sets from the dollar store, I just find that they always break so quickly.

indoor play ideas

18. Stickers

A sheet of stickers can go a loooooong way. My daughter will happily sit and remove each sticker from a sheet of stickers and stick them to her arm. Then she’ll go on to remove each sticker from her arm and stick it to her leg. After that, she will remove each sticker from her leg and stick it to her face…You get the idea.

19. Turn on the Radio and See Who Has the Best Moves

Turn on some loud music and bust a move. Take turns making up a move for the other person to mimic. Unless you have two or more little guys, you might be on deck for this one Mom and Dad. There’s bound to be some laughing!

20. Dress-up Photo Shoot

Break open the tickle trunk and get your kids trying on their best dress-up outfits for a fun photo shoot. Have them make silly faces and poses while you take their picture. After you’re all done having fun, you can go back and look through the pictures for a good laugh. You might even want to print some out to give away.

21. Learn a Choreographed Dance from YouTube

Depending on the age of your kids, you can find something super easy or something a bit more intricate. Help them break it down and learn the moves. Once they’ve mastered the moves they could change into a fun outfit and put on a show for the rest of the family.

22. Make a Smoothie

Most kids love to help, and this is an easy (and healthy) recipe for some tasty fun. Chop up some fruit and let your kids put it into the blender jug, the let them help scoop in some yogurt and squeeze in a bit of honey or maple syrup. I usually use this as an opportunity to sneak in some spinach, or an avocado will make a nice creamy smoothie. Blend it up and let them slurp it up with a straw.

I hope these fun activities brighten up your next rainy day at home! If you have any tried-and-true methods to entertain the kids at home, please share them with us and other moms in a comment below!